Friday, January 11, 2013

South Carolina history and beaver hats

At work the other day (Friends Historical Collection), I pulled older books for possible scanning for I was excited to see that Ancestry already has The Annals of Newberry (two volumes) by John Belton O'Neall and John A. Chapman— a nice, clean copy that you can print by single pages. If you don't have access, you can download this messier copy from Google books. The download is easier to print multiple pages, but image only (no word searching). You can search for words by staying online on the Google page. Click on the book cover image to open the reader (NOT the eBook); a search box will be on the left.

Ancestry also has both volumes of Historic Camden, by Thomas Kirkland and Robert Kennedy (note: there are genealogical errors in Kirkland and Kennedy, especially in regard to the English family). Here's the Google version.

I like the Annals for the nitty-gritty details, humour and generous genealogical name-dropping, especially for Bush River Meeting. O'Neall, born in 1793 to an Quaker family of Irish descent, heard first-hand accounts of Revolutionary South Carolina and witnessed the 19th-century events himself.

After a listing settlers in the Bush River area for half a page, O'Neall describes an imagined meeting for worship, probably based on family recollections:

... I can see the aged form of the elder David Jenkins, sitting immediately below the preacher's bench, on the left of the southern entrance to the men's meeting, leaning on the head of his staff, his large protruding lower lip, the most remarkable feature of his face. Alongside of him might be seen the tall form and grey hairs of Tanner Thomson, as he used to be called. Scarcely could the sacred stillness of Friends' meeting keep him from snapping his thumb and finger together, as if feeling a side of leather. Just here I recall the person of Isaac Hollingsworth. His was a stalwart form, more than six feet high. He sits the picture of firmness, and ever and anon, throwing up the ample brim of his flapping beaver, he looks as if he was restless....
A little further to the right or lower down, might be seen the pale features of that excellent man, Joseph Furnas! Near to him was to be seen the tall, erect form, florid complexion, clear, blue eye, ample forehead, and grey hair of John Kelly, Sr.; just alongside of him might be seen Isaac Kirk. Friend Kirk, as he used to be called, was a true Quaker. He was plain and simple as a child, kind and forbearing in every thing. No better heart was covered by a straight-breasted coat. He had his peculiarities: one, that in reading, he read as if he was singing the passages—another, that when talking to any one his foot had always to be in motion. ...
In the women's meeting, on the preacher's bench, under their immense white beavers, I recall the full round faces and forms of the sisters, Charity Cook and Susannah Hollingsworth. Both wives, both mothers of large families, still they felt it their duty to preach "Jesus and him crucified." The first, Charity Cook, was indeed a gifted woman. She traveled through the States extensively. Twice visited England and Ireland. When her husband drove his stage wagon into Rabun's creek, at a time when it was high, drowned two horses, and only escaped drowning himself by riding a chunk to land, she swam to the shore, and thus saved herself. Her sister, Susannah Hollingsworth, was not so highly gifted. Henry O'Neall, and other young Friends, used to affirm, that when Aunt Suzey, as she was called, began to pray, they could always keep ahead of her by repeating the words she was about to say.
Just below the preacher's bench, the once round and graceful form (afterwards bent by 82 winters) of Hannah Kelly, once Hannah Belton, a native of Queen's County, Ireland, might be seen. No more intelligent, kind, or benevolent face ever met the upturned gaze of her juniors. Well might it be said of her, that she was indeed "a mother in Israel." Her eye of blue, her long straight nose, high cheek bones, and clear Irish complexion, can scarcely ever be forgotten by those who saw her.
When I first read "their immense white beavers," I pictured the large, white bonnets of modern stereotypical Quaker illustrations. According to History of American Costume, 1607-1870, bonnet was a loose term from the French used for all kinds of hats, but actual bonnets didn't come about until later in the 18th century, including straw ones. (My Quaker great-grandmother wore a floral blue bonnet.)

Beavers were actually wide-brimmed hats, and women wore them over their caps — caps having been a staple for centuries. Notice in the first paragraph that men wore them, too.

This beaver hat is from the mid-18th century (American Costume, p. 167).

Speaking of Bush River, a group of descendants and people who care about the cemetery will have their annual Bush River Quaker Homecoming May 2-5 in Newberry, S.C. Their nascent website is here. (I noticed mistakes right away in the cemetery list, but they are building this site. The bibliography looks interesting.)

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